Today's college stars are the future of fantasy football. We can look at quarterbacks with pro-ready arms and high-level production or the dual-threat running backs who can produce PPR numbers in the NFL. Don't forget about the pass-catchers with explosive playmaking ability and scoring upside in the red zone.
After watching the college tape, here are five NFL prospects we need to put on the fantasy radar heading into the 2022 season.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
We'll start with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Young's narrow frame -- 6-foot, 194 pounds -- will be a topic of discussion throughout the draft process. But if you look at his traits as a passer in Alabama's pro-style system, he threw for over 4,800 yards and 47 touchdowns with only seven interceptions last season.
Young has excellent field vision, he can anticipate throwing windows, find the void and deliver the ball with rhythm. He's an accurate thrower who excels at creating space in the pocket and has the arm strength to push the ball down the field.
Young's ability to win from the pocket or attack the edges on movement concepts applies to today's NFL schemes. I believe he will have a high fantasy floor in the league with the potential to post QB1 numbers.
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Stroud has plenty of fantasy upside as a high-traits prospect. The pro size is there at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. His arm talent and movement jumps out at you when watching tape. I'd like to see him utilize his legs more when he is forced to play outside of structure. That's a boost for your fantasy lineup on scramble attempts and quarterback-designed runs.
Stroud racked up some big numbers in his first season as a starter for Ohio State last year. His QBR (91.6) was the best in the nation. He also threw 44 touchdowns, and completed 71.9% of his passes over 10 yards per attempt. Stroud put on an absolute show in the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl win over Utah, throwing for 573 yards, with six touchdowns and five completions of 20 or more air yards.
I'd like to see him complete more throws from contested pockets. At times he looks like he is playing 7-on-7 football and the Buckeyes pass game is also very heavily schemed. But with only 12 career college starts and legit pro skills, Stroud projects as a high-ceiling quarterback in fantasy.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I'm putting Robinson here because of his dual-threat ability in a pro-style offense. That's what you want at running back in fantasy football. Robinson is decisive with the ball, presses the line of scrimmage and has significant burst. He utilizes his 6-foot, 214 pound frame and a combination of power and wiggle at the second-level, forcing 81 missed tackles last season in just 10 games played. Robinson also has big play ability, ripping off 15 rushes of over 15 yards this past season.
While he's shown the ability to handle heavy volume in college, his receiving skills will bump his fantasy potential as a pro. Robinson caught 25 passes last year -- from multiple alignments. He can run swings, screens and unders from backfield sets or flex outside of the formation to draw matchups in coverage. In the right system, Robinson is a three-down back with PPR upside.
Smith-Njigba's Rose Bowl tape is pretty ridiculous. As are his record-breaking numbers (15 receptions, 314 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns). You can look at the verticals or the catch-and-run targets or his clean route running, but it was more than just that one game. Smith-Njigba averaged almost 17 yards a catch last season, tallying 1,606 receiving yards and nine touchdowns while playing with first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
His production should elevate this year as Stroud's No. 1 target. Smith-Njigba is defined in his route running and displays the flexibility to be deployed as a motion/movement option, catching the ball on short screens and running jet sweeps. He should be the top wide receiver in college football heading into the 2022 season.
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Mayer has the physical profile and red zone upside to post viable numbers as an inline or flex tight end. Mayer caught 71 of 96 targets last season, running NFL route concepts at Notre Dame. He's rugged after the catch, with a 6-foot-4, 251 pound frame to post up defenders. He also caught five of his seven touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Mayer is adept at using his size and knowledge of the route tree to create leverage.
In addition to his scoring potential as a red zone target, Mayer can get up on the toes of safeties in coverage, utilize his speed to stretch the seam on play-action, run the deep crossing routes or isolate outside as a boundary target. He can also lineup as backside X receiver in 3-by-1 sets. Based on the tape I've watched, Mayer has the makeup of a day-one starter in the NFL with real fantasy potential as a three-level target.